Issue Position: Hunting, Fishing, and Second Amendment Rights
Having grown up in the West, I have a deep appreciation for outdoor life. As a kid I learned how to use a rifle, and as an instructor and later executive director of Colorado Outward Bound, I learned a great deal about survival skills in the wilderness. Gun-ownership, hunting and fishing are all a part of the way of life in the West, and as a Member of Congress I appreciate the role that sportsmen and women play in promoting healthy wildlife management and protection of the environment. I also recognize that Americans' rights under the Second Amendment are not limited to firearms used for hunting, but must include the right to bear arms for other lawful purposes, including personal protection and collecting.
In the Colorado General Assembly I worked closely with the hunting community to pass legislation increasing the fines for illegal poaching of big game animals like "Samson," the majestic bull elk that was a mascot for Estes Park. In Congress, I sponsored legislation that preserves the ability of states like Colorado to grant preferences to in-state hunting and fishing license holders. I am also the co-sponsor of several other bills that preserve wildlife habitat, promote clean water fisheries and reduce conflicts between agriculture and hunters. My office has also been working with recreational shooters to secure safe and convenient shooting ranges in Colorado.
In response to concerns raised by Colorado hunters, I have authored legislation that would encourage the National Park Service to use hunters instead of paid-sharpshooters to reduce the elk herd in Rocky Mountain National Park. This strikes me as a smart way of using the skills of outdoor sports enthusiasts to manage the growing problem of elk overpopulation in the park and save taxpayer money at the same time.
On gun legislation in general, I hold the view that the burden of proof is on those seeking changes to the laws already on the books, and that we must do a better job of enforcing these existing laws before embarking on new restrictions or regulations. In this regard, I am not unmindful of the tragedies at Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, and other instances when terrible crimes have been committed with guns. Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill ought to unite all of us, and that is where I believe our emphasis must be placed.
I also believe that a recent ruling by the D.C. Court of Appeals on the reach of Second Amendment rights made a convincing constitutional argument against the so-called "gun ban" in Washington, D.C. I generally support the self-rule of residents and their local governments such as Washington D.C., because I think they, like the residents of Colorado, should be largely able to set their own policies -- but the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and after reading this recent federal court ruling, I think the D.C. Court of Appeals correctly ruled that the DC gun ban improperly violated the Second Amendment. This ruling provides new guidance on the reach of Second Amendment rights that we did not have prior to 2006, and while it does not answer every question, I believe it strikes the right balance in favor of protecting individual liberties and gun ownership.